Posts Tagged parliament

Thornberry’s indifference helps kill Fuel Poverty Bill

If your MP could help pass a Bill in Parliament which could save lives, help the poorest people in Britain, help in the fight against climate change, and what’s more create jobs in a recession, don’t you think that would be worthwhile?

I do, and that’s why I backed the Fuel Poverty Bill introduced by Liberal Democrat MP David Heath.

With the spring weather we may forget the tragedy that 20,000 people needlessly die from the cold each year, and many more become ill. Fuel prices have more than doubled over the last five years. Many homes are poorly insulated so that energy is wasted.

The Fuel Poverty Bill would end fuel poverty by 2016 by bringing all homes up to standard and cutting fuel bills for the poorest families. It would mean fewer people face illness or death from cold and damp. It would help to reduce the wastage of energy which contributes to climate change. And it would produce work for thousands of people when we desperately need it.

The Bill has been backed by many major charities, including Help the Aged and Friends of the Earth. I want to thank all the Islington residents who signed my petition supporting the Bill. I would have voted for the Bill, and I congratulate MPs from all parties who did so.

Sadly I have to report that despite their hard work, the Bill will not go forward, because it just missed getting the 100 votes needed.

I am totally disgusted with Emily Thornberry, the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, who once again did not bother to vote.

This comes after she failed to vote on Heathrow or on knife crime, she voted in favour of Post Office closures, against tax cuts, and against more money for social housing in Islington.

It is a disgraceful record.

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Back the Fuel Poverty Bill

The Government has admitted that unemployment is now over the 2 million mark.

To quote Work & Pensions Minister (and former Islington councillor) James Purnell, “these are bad figures. There is no gloss that anyone is going to try and put on them.”

It’s hard to take in the scale of the figures – the latest rise, an extra 165,000 unemployed at the end of last year, is roughly equal to the population of Islington.

Just this week, I spoke to three different friends who are affected by this: one is preparing to reapply for his job, one is doing voluntary work while she’s job hunting and another is worried about his partner’s job in a round of redundancies. These are uncertain times.

The Government could and should take a bold stand and tackle the economic and the climate change crisis together: by creating jobs in the work that needs to be done insulating our homes, developing renewable energy, producing more food and goods locally, and providing better public transport.

Tomorrow sees the 2nd reading of David Heath’s Fuel Poverty Bill. By calling for major energy efficiency programme, to bring existing homes up to the current energy efficiency levels enjoyed by modern homes, it could tackle both unemployment and the impact of climate change.

I hope that for once, Emily Thornberry, Islington South’s Labour MP, will swallow her partisan pride and back this excellent Bill. Watch this space.

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Another Heathrow vote

Campaigning MPs from all parties are doing their best to combat the expansion of Heathrow.

And for good reason. As I’ve blogged before, another Heathrow runway will be a disaster for the environment without helping the economy: a seriously bad idea.

One of the many disgraceful aspects of the Heathrow issue is that the Labour government denied MPs the decision. So good news that this week Susan Kramer MP opened a debate to amend the Planning Act 2008 “to require parliamentary approval for proposals for the building of new major airports and additional runways at existing major airports”.

Lib Dem MPs backed the idea. So did principled Labour MPs like Jeremy Corbyn. In fact most of the Labour rebels were London MPs who know how their constituents will be affected.

So how did Emily Thornberry vote? She didn’t. Couldn’t be bothered? Had a better offer? Who knows…. We can all protest, go on demos, sign petitions, etc: many of us do! But we rely on our MP to do the one thing we can’t do: use their vote in Parliament on our behalf. And once again, Emily Thornberry has let Islington down.

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Jacqui Smith in expenses row

Here’s the thing.

Your job requires you to be in two places at once – Westminster and your constituency. You’d only run one home normally, but now you need two. So the rules say you can declare one your ‘main’ home, and get taxpayers’ help for the other. That’s fair enough.

You keep your existing family home and claim for a pied a terre in London. Or move your family to London and claim for a sleepover place in your constituency. Also fair.

What you don’t do, or shouldn’t, is stay on the cheap with a mate, pretend that’s your main base and then get the tax payer to underwrite the family home. Which is exactly what we now find out Jacqui Smith has been doing for years.

Now we know why she’s called the Home secretary.

Like Derek Conway before her, Smith’s dodgy dealings make people sceptical about MPs in general, even though most, in all parties, are decent people: and that’s bad news for democracy.

When the Tories eventually lost power, it wasn’t because they were hated (some of us had hated them for years). It was because they were incompetent and sleazy.

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Heathrow expansion: close vote expected

It looks as if there will be a close vote in the Heathrow expansion debate today.

Labour are whipping furiously in favour of the third runway. Labour MPs flying back from Strasbourg will get their fare paid if they vote in favour, but not if they vote against.

Lib Dems are united against the runway. Some Labour MPs will rebel and vote with the Lib Dems (as I’ve asked our local MP to do). Andrew Slaughter has quit his PPS job to be free to vote against Heathrow: Emily Thornberry has no such sacrifice to make.

However, it’s also expected that some Conservative MPs will follow their party’s traditional pro-Heathrow stance, rebel against their leadership, and vote in favour. And as with the controversial vote on 42 days, the Labour government may also be looking to the Ulster Unionists to bail them out.

Watch this space….

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Victory on opening up MPs expenses – but no thanks to Emily Thornberry

A mass campaign organised by the Liberal Democrats and Islington-based pressure group Unlock Democracy has forced Gordon Brown to back down on controversial plans to exempt MPs expenses from the Freedom of Information Act.

But not before local Labour MP Emily Thornberry has been exposed as being on the side of secrecy.

MPs from all parties backed Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson’s Early Day Motion opposing the secrecy plan – but Emily Thornberry refused to sign up.

Sad to say, our local MP has a long record of voting against a transparent Parliament. Last year, she voted against external audits of MPs’ expenses, voted against making MPs provide receipts for expenses like all other taxpayers, and voted against bringing the transparency of Parliamentary expenses into line with other public bodies. These proposals were backed by the Lib Dems, but defeated by Labour in Parliament.

Just last week, Ms Thornberry told the BBC she didn’t know “what the fuss was about” over MP expenses, and rejected suggestions that they should be accountable for “every single item on our receipts”. In contrast, local councillors have to make all their expenses claims available for public scrutiny.

The Lib Dems opposed the ‘secret expenses’ plan from the beginning, and public outrage has now forced Gordon Brown’s Government into a humiliating climbdown.

Why didn’t Emily Thornberry join Lib Dem MPs, some Tories, and even her colleague Jeremy Corbyn, in backing the motion against the secrecy plan?

At a time when many Islington residents are having to fill in detailed tax returns or benefits claims, it is arrogant of Ms Thornberry to claim that MPs like her are too important to do the same. Politicians should live by the same rules as everyone else. It is outrageous that the Labour Government and Ms Thornberry, whose salaries we all pay, tried to hide their expenses claims– what have they got to hide?

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Losing more than a vote

When I was a student in France, I mis-heard on a very crackly radio, that Parliament had voted to reintroduce capital punishment (they hadn’t). At a time when France had just abolished la guillotine, I seriously considered whether I should stay abroad; Britain suddenly felt less like home.

I feel a bit that way again now, with the Government just winning the vote to extend detention without charge. I was talking to a non-political friend about the issue the other day; she’s used to me having a pop at the government of the day, and often gently teases me that any government, even a Lib Dem one, might do the same. This time she heard me out, then said “you really care about this, don’t you?”. Yes, I do.

Was Emily Thornberry one of the MPs who sold out? She’s always been a big Gordon Brown fan. Or did her vote get cancelled out by the DUP?

It’s not the end, yet. There’s still the House of Lords. There’s still the detail of the various amendments and supposed safeguards to be digested. There’s still the profound hope – shared by campaigners on all sides – that this legislation will never need to be implemented. So tomorrow is another day. But for tonight it feels like more than a vote has been lost.

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